Dr. June Marcum Henton, 83, human scientist and university leader, passed away on Tuesday, August 22, in Auburn, Alabama. A true visionary, June saw – and led – the transformation of human sciences from its roots in home economics to a 21st century globally recognized discipline of study.
Roots in Oklahoma
A native of Hominy, Oklahoma, June was the fifth of six children born to Emmett Lee and Irene (Shay) Marcum. Raised on a cattle ranch in Osage County, she learned the importance of hard work in her first job, keeping the books in her father’s sale barn.
Defying expectations became the norm for June. She graduated first in her high school class (of seven students) at Mound Valley School. Then, by her mother’s insistence, June left Hominy to attend Oklahoma State University, where she met Richard Henton on a blind date. They were married in her parents’ home on December 30, 1960, and were dedicated partners to one another in their individual pursuits to further their education and learn the ropes of academia before June launched her trailblazing career.
After beginning her faculty work at East Carolina University and spending nearly ten years among the tumbleweeds of West Texas, June, Richard, and their children Jalyn and Connor moved to the picturesque campus of Oregon State University in Corvallis. This provided the setting for June’s most productive years as a scholar of interpersonal relationships. Among her publications, “Romance and Violence in Dating Relationships,” cited hundreds of times, was a title she took great pride in creating, along with “Hers and His: A Problem-Solving Approach to Marriage,” a book she co-authored. June also studied dual-career families, something that she and Richard had knowledge of firsthand.
Oregon is the place where lifelong friendships were made with fellow scholars, students, and their families. Many hours spent writing collaboratively around the kitchen table, rearing children together, editing dissertations, toasting promotions and tenure and eventually accepting unconditional love and support after Richard’s career-ending medical diagnosis. June and Richard opened their home to many colleagues who to this day are considered family.
June’s roots as a scholar supported her as she moved into university administration, first as department head and then as associate dean at Oregon State. In 1985, with her school-age children and husband in tow, June began a new chapter as a dean at Auburn University, trading in countless rainy days for sweltering summers. June got right to work. She changed the name of the School of Home Economics to the School of Human Sciences (now the College of Human Sciences – the first in the nation to use this name, which has now become commonplace). In doing so, she helped to modernize “Home Eco” into what it is known as today – human development and family science, apparel design, interior design, hospitality management, and nutrition and food science. As June noted in the 2022 International Quality of Life Awards Distinguished Lecture Series, “Our field was just like engineering, agriculture, architecture and all the applied arts and sciences. We had our unit of study as the family, and within this environment we [examine] food, clothing and shelter, and their relationship to the world.”
June foresaw the need for globalization in academic programs and began traveling worldwide to garner the support of industry leaders in hospitality, apparel, and textiles. Her children have fond memories of accompanying her on these many trips spanning the globe from North America to Europe, Asia, and Australia. The results, to name only a few, were the establishment of Auburn’s first and only permanent study-abroad campus in Ariccia, Italy, academic partnerships with world-renowned hotel brands, and the establishment of international partnerships to fight world hunger.
June understood that relationships and communication are essential to international collaboration. She was masterful in building bridges with diverse constituencies and finding the common ground to accomplish shared goals. A keen editor and wordsmith, June and her friend and colleague Dr. Harriet Giles spent countless hours perfecting speeches and messages on behalf of the College. By the time she retired, June was the longest-serving Dean in the modern history of Auburn University.
Throughout her work, June exhibited a rare balance of grace and strength that will be long remembered. Through the eyes of her sister Doris, “June was our shining star that we all looked up to.”
Country Music and Deeply Held Values
Country music was the soundtrack to June’s life. She had an encyclopedic knowledge of lyrics from the 1930s to the 1970s and was known to breakout in song at unexpected moments –such as while receiving her honorary doctorate at the University of Guelph in Canada and while accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award at the International Quality of Life Awards, the venue of which happened to be the hallowed halls of the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. Love of music and the arts were just one of the many things June and Richard passed on to their children.
Love of people was another. The daughter of a prominent family in a small town – who spent every Sunday in the pews of a Primitive Baptist church – June learned early on the importance of taking care of everyone in your community. This led to her lifelong support of causes that championed the dignity of women and girls and equal opportunities for all.
Mother and Mentor
As accomplished and highly regarded as June was in her career, she cherished above all else being an inspiring and loving mother to Jalyn and Connor. From an early age, she instilled in them the core values of personal integrity, hard work, and unconditional acceptance of all people despite differing opinions or value systems. With her ever-present guidance and encouragement, she allowed them the freedom to follow their hearts and choose their own paths as they grew into adulthood. When Jalyn and Connor married, she saw not only that her children had found remarkable partners but also that she and Richard had gained loyal and devoted friends. Her pride in her family grew even more when she became “Gina” to three adoring grandchildren who were the light of her life.
As a mentor, June offered opportunities to many, simply by opening her arms and heart (and often her Rolodex). She was a found of advice and guidance, and many would turn to her trusted ear for direction in both personal and professional matters. Over the years, she profoundly touched and influenced the lives of many young people. Those who were fortunate enough to be mentored by her, would feel supported to go on to have successful careers though guided by a larger purpose. June encouraged not just personal success but put value on creating a broader social impact. She was able to channel the energy of many incredible young leaders, supporting them in pursuing careers in international relations and development, fighting hunger or supporting social mobility. She is credited with broadening horizons and minds.
Her friend Andrea Pastorelli, CEO of Teach for Italy, said, “Coming from a working-class family in Italy, June brought me to the United Stated and opened a world of opportunities to me. I would always call her my American mother. She gave me the confidence to pursue a career in international development and was a powerful force for change in my life. June was living proof of what a great education can and should achieve; creating well-rounded global citizens who are aware of their responsibility to do their part to create positive change. Her shoes are too large to fill, but I know many of us will continue to try to carry her legacy and values forward.”
A Stellar Biography
After receiving her B.S. degree from Oklahoma State University in just three years, June earned her M.S. from the University of Nebraska and her Ph.D. in Family and Social Science from the University of Minnesota. She was also bestowed a Doctor of Laws Degree, honoris causa, by the University of Guelph.
Her illustrious career featured many highlights, including the foundation of the National Textile Center University Research Consortium, the Elmer & Glenda Harris Early Learning Center, the International Quality of Life Awards (now in its 30th year), the Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy program (now in its 20th year), the Women’s Philanthropy Board and Hospitality Management Program at Auburn University, and a host of programs to combat food insecurity, including Universities Fighting World Hunger, Presidents United to Solve Hunger, End Child Hunger in Alabama, and the Hunger Solutions Institute.
Among her many professional and personal accolades, June received the Outstanding Alumni Award from Oklahoma State University, the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Minnesota, and the Pamela Wells Sheffield Award from Auburn University. She was also named a White House Champion of Change for her contributions to solving the world’s most pressing challenges. Most recently, her family and friends established an endowment for the June Marcum Henton Deanship in the College of Human Sciences at Auburn to recognize her legacy in perpetuity. After hearing of her passing, a former dean and colleague wrote simply, “The academy weeps.”
June leaves behind her son Jalyn Henton, daughter-in-law Dr. Tanisha Carino, and grandchildren Jordan and Estella Henton of Alexandria, Virginia; her daughter Connor Lowry, son-in-law William (Mac) Lowry, and granddaughter Jules Lowry of Auburn, Alabama; her sisters Betty Helm and Doris Holloway of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma; numerous nieces, nephews; and many other extended family and friends. June was preceded in death by her husband, Richard, parents and brothers Jack, Harold, and Emmett Jr.
June will be interred during a private service in Hominy, Oklahoma; a formal memorial service will be held in Auburn this coming spring. In the lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the June Marcum Hendon Deanship at auburngiving.org/hentondeanship.